Rain on your marathon day, that’s ironic isn’t it. No Alanis…it definitely isn’t. I can hear thunder as I write this, so things are looking good for Sunday. At least I’ve done all I can with the aspects I can control. Training is over, now I’m in the difficult stage of resting and eating lots, which luckily I have years of experience in. You can see my race number below and track my progress on the marathon site I believe. Give me a ring if there’s no movement for a while after 20 miles. You can look out for me wearing the above kit too, although I may yet add a waterproof jacket depending on how brave I feel on the day.
After my slight injury concerns last week I tested the knee on Sunday with my final long run. Minor discomfort disappeared after a few miles and I managed a decent half marathon time; one I’d be very happy replicating on Sunday…although there’s no chance of doing it twice in a row! In two shorter runs I felt no injury concerns, so I suppose I’ll only find out during the marathon now after a couple of hours running. The weather is more concerning at the moment, especially the prospect of waiting around at the start in the cold rain. Actually running in it might prove quite refreshing, so long as it’s not combined with strong winds, but I’d rather not face 4 or 5 hours of depressing weather. Hopefully the crowds will still turn out to cheer everyone on, even though it’s probably even less fun standing around getting soaked. If any of you are coming to watch the race do let me know roughly where you’ll be and I’ll try to look out for you.
This week also saw the London Marathon Expo, which I attended yesterday. The main photo was the only one without me blinking, but probably better than the drowned rat race photos on Sunday. I thought I’d go along on a weekday to avoid the queues, but still anticipated waiting quite a while to register as others had warned me. In reality it took about 3 minutes. I’m really hoping Sunday goes just as smoothly. So I have my running number (43114 in case you haven’t noticed it above!) and start with the red group in Greenwich Park at 9.45am. I imagine it might take a while to get across the start line, so I’m hoping to finish the marathon between 2-3pm. If you’re tracking my progress and that doesn’t look likely, feel free to send a text telling me to speed up. If my iPhone hasn’t drowned, I’ll try to read them. The Expo was really enjoyable; like a conference but where everyone actually understands what they’re doing there, finds it useful and doesn’t leave before clients ask them difficult questions. So not like any conference really…and they had a giant trainer.
Even the pasta bar meal was slightly better than expected. Fair enough, I had very low expectations, but still, more carbs in the bank. I definitely wouldn’t recommend attending on the Saturday and spending hours strolling around though. It’s big, there’s a lot to see and it’s pretty tiring. Also, there are hundreds of free samples for drinks, gels, protein bars and so on. While that seems logical at a running event, there are also people giving good advice such as ‘don’t try anything new at this stage’, which doesn’t quite fit in with stuffing your face with all the latest new products. In fact, the presenter I saw talked about resting the day before, so I’ve no idea what he’ll be saying on Saturday when it is the day before and thousands of people are walking miles eating new protein bars. You’re supposed to cut down a lot of protein before the event anyway; part of the reason my week or so of eating lots hasn’t been as enjoyable as it sounds. I also wasn’t too sure about the wisdom of putting beer in the marathon runner’s goodie bag. If that’s your main source of carbs, you may be in trouble.
In an earlier blog I wrote about the world’s oldest marathon runner, completing the Toronto marathon last year at the age of 100. Now at 101, he has announced the London marathon on Sunday will be his last. There’s a nice article on him here. Good luck to him, but if I see him during the race, I’m clearly not doing very well. I noticed another inspiring running story this week, perhaps a more bewildering achievement reported on here. It tells the story of an ultra-marathon runner who has been blind since the age of 18, but has taken part in events with guide runners and taught himself to run solo on the streets, memorising routes near his home. These stories make my efforts seem far less impressive, but importantly at this stage, it also makes Sunday seem infinitely more achievable and adds some perspective.
According to William Hill, the three favourites for the marathon are Patrick Makau, Emmanuel Mutai and Abel Kirui. I couldn’t find anyone quoting a price on me sadly. The three favourites are all from Kenya, supporting many of the generalisations about distance running. It’s not so simplistic when looking at the reasons behind it though. While Kenya has won 21 gold medals in 800m and above events since 1968, it’s not necessarily logical to conclude Kenyans are good at running. The majority of Kenyan winners have been from a small region of the Rift Valley called Nandi. It quickly becomes clear it’s ludicrous to think of distance running as a Kenyan phenomenon when so many of the country are underrepresented. Likewise, with the wider continent’s success based on the smallest pinpricks on the map, the notion of Africans in general being good distance runners becomes fairly ignorant.
A recent Guardian article also highlights the success of Kenya’s Rift Valley and sheds some light on why the top 20 fastest marathon runners are all from Kenya. Unfortunately for those looking for some grand secret, it appears to be a unique dedication and commitment to running from an early age. Poverty exists in many other countries, as does the will to escape it, yet in these small regions of Kenya every last drop of energy is channeled into running. Despite scientific research, there is no evidence at all to suggest Kenyan running ability has anything to do with genetics. Right, that’s racism sorted out then. Next week homophobia, where we learn if you have something important to say, it’s definitely best to stick it on the side of a bus.
Clearly I’ve been reading too many articles this week, because I also saw a study by the University of Exeter that highlighted the benefits of exercise and particularly walking, in fighting depression. I think time spent outdoors is part of the benefit, while walking is accessible to most people. It does provide mental health benefits, although exercise that raises the heart rate further is likely to have an even greater impact. The key is probably to find exercise you enjoy and focus on that, as slogging away on activities that feel like a chore all the time may not be the most motivating solution. Mixing a physical challenge with an activity you really enjoy or find cathartic can be a great help.
However, merely knowing what can help fight depression isn’t always enough. Sometimes it’s difficult to imagine a brighter future and find the energy to help yourself; it can be simultaneously numbing and exhausting. I’m sure it can feel different to everyone, increasing the feeling of isolation, but hopefully increasing awareness and encouraging people to talk as Mind strive towards will continue to benefit people more and more. This blog has been enjoyable to write and veered off in many directions, but I hope it’s at least made a few people think about mental health and the benefits of exercise.
One thing it has helped with is fundraising, keeping people interested in my training and bringing in donations from a huge number of unexpected sources. I passed my target this week, which was a great boost so close to the marathon. I wouldn’t have felt so focused on the race if I still had a huge amount left so raise, so thank you once again to everyone who has sponsored me. The total now stands at £1,755 and I’d love to get near £2,000 if possible, so keep passing the blog on and if you haven’t donated yet, there is still time! Perhaps you’re waiting to see if I actually finish the race first. Understandable, and all donations are welcome at any time, but I’d love to have that support from as many people as possible going into the marathon. The larger the amount raised, the more determined I’ll be on the day. Feel free to guess my marathon time if you’ve sponsored me. Closest guess may win a prize.
This is the penultimate blog and obviously the last before the big day. It seems like a lot more than 10 weeks since I found out I was running the marathon, with so much training behind me and having come so far with the fundraising. Thank you again for all your support, help and advice over the weeks. All I have to do now is relax and get some rest. And of course avoid celebrating too much due to Saints inconveniently timed return to the Premier League on Saturday evening.
Wish me luck.